CBS pulls plug on ‘Guiding Light’

Long-running serial ends run on Sept. 18

After 72 years on the air (with more than 15,700 episodes on radio and TV combined), “Guiding Light” will shine no more — at least on CBS.

The Eye net informed the show’s cast and crew Wednesday that the long-running serial will be broadcast for the last time on Friday, Sept. 18.

The demise reps the latest hit to the once-vibrant daytime soap genre. “Guiding Light” consistently ranks at the bottom of the daytime ratings, and its fate isn’t a complete surprise.

“Guiding Light” may not be completely dead, however. Producer TeleNext Media — the successor to Procter & Gamble Prods., which changed its name last year — is mulling other options for the show, including a cable or Internet play.

“We are working hard to find the show a new home, and we are exploring all our options to continue to bring loyal fans the characters and stories they love,” said TeleNext Media senior VP-managing director Brian Cahill.

A spokesman for TeleNext noted that “Guiding Light” started out as a 15-minute radio show and evolved with the times. Asked whether that means “Guiding” may morph into a series of webisodes or podcasts, the spokesman wouldn’t elaborate.

“Guiding Light” had already undergone a massive transformation in the past year, as CBS and TeleNext made a last-ditch effort to bolster the show’s sagging viewership.

The sudser’s look and feel was radically altered last year, as producers began taking the show outdoors and using guerilla-style filmmaking (hand-held cameras, simultaneous digital editing and on-location shoots in Peapack, N.J.) to set the show apart.

The alterations only upset “Guiding Light’s” loyal but dwindling stable of fans. This season the show has drawn the smallest numbers on broadcast in daytime, averaging 2.2 million viewers, as well as a 1.1 rating/6 share with women 25-54 and a 0.9 rating/5 share with women 18-49.

CBS hasn’t announced how it will fill the “Guiding Light” spot, but TVWeek reported this week that fare such as the gamer “$25,000 Pyramid” or talkshows are being considered.

With one fewer sudser, that means only seven now remain on the nets: Three each on ABC and CBS and one on NBC.

” ‘Guiding Light’ has achieved a piece of television history that will never be matched,” said Nancy Tellem, prexy of the CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group. “It has crossed mediums, adapted its stories to decades of social change and woven its way through generations of audiences like no other.”

The soap, created by IrnaPhillips, launched on NBC radio as a 15-minute daily serial in January 1937; it moved to CBS Television as a 15-minute series in 1952. The radio show continued concurrently until 1956, while the TV version was expanded to 30 minutes in 1968 and a full hour in 1977.

“Guiding Light” has won 69 Daytime Emmys through the years — including three for daytime drama series.”Being on the air for more than seven decades is truly remarkable, and it will be difficult for all of us at the show to say goodbye,” said exec producer Ellen Wheeler.

David Kreizman, Christopher Dunn, Lloyd Gold and Jill Lorie Hurst serve as head writers on the show.

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